Review: The Book of Elsie

The Book of Elsie

by Joanne Levy

Orca Currents (imprint of Orca Book Publishers), 2022

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer

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When Elsie’s synagogue threatens to close due to financial problems - and therefore cancel the Purim party that Elsie has been so looking forward to - she comes up with a plan to save the shul. Elsie's two dads, already sensitive to discrimination as gay men, are concerned about her plan to invite the wider, non-Jewish community to the party, but she wins them over and her plan is a go. But when antisemitic vandalism threatens the party a second time just hours before the event is set to begin, the community must rally together even more. This is a sweet story which addresses both antisemitism and homophobia and empowers readers to fight such discrimination. The book was specifically designed to appeal to reluctant readers and those with learning differences, including dyslexia, by using a dyslexia-friendly font and larger trim size.

Imbued with Jewish content from its title (a play on words, as the Purim story is known as the Book of Esther) to its very last page, The Book of Elsie certainly meets the criteria for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Rachel J. Fremmer is a lawyer-turned-elementary-school librarian. She is a native New Yorker and lives there with her husband and two daughters, ages 17 and 14, who are rapidly outgrowing her area of book expertise. She is continually inspired by the city even though apartment living means she is running out of room for her picture book collection. When she is not reading or writing, she loves baking and doing crossword puzzles.